Kyrie Irving knows this year could be a special one for the Celtics, and he doesn't want anything getting in the way of that. So on Thursday night during a season-ticket holder Q&A at TD Garden, he eliminated one potential looming distraction when he verbally committed to Boston long-term. "If you guys will have me back," he announced to fans, "I plan on re-signing here next year."
First things first: Yes, Kyrie. Boston will have you. The fans let him know as much when they erupted at the announcement. Nothing is set in stone, of course. It wouldn't be the first time a player changed his mind over the course of a season. But to go back on this now would leave a deep stain on Kyrie's name not just in Boston, but all over the league. It's almost impossible to imagine him doing that. Plus, there's this:
Sources: Kyrie Irving has met with Celtics ownership and has been direct with his message to Boston's brass over past few months: He's committed long-term to the franchise.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 4, 2018
When Danny Ainge made the trade for Kyrie last summer, he repeatedly told reporters that Irving, being that he was just 25 years old at the time, "fit [Boston's] timeline." In other words, the Celtics weren't planning on truly competing for a couple years, even with the addition of Gordon Hayward. But then Jaylen Brown turned into a stud, and Jayson Tatum emerged as a budding star even quicker than perhaps the Celtics expected. LeBron heading to the Lakers sealed the deal: The Eastern Conference now belongs to the Celtics.
Kyrie's announcement is just the start. Assuming he keeps his word and signs for the five-year max next summer, the Celtics have their presumed starting lineup of Irving, Tatum, Hayward, Brown and Al Horford locked up for at least the next two years. Assuming they pony up for Horford and Brown in 2021 to keep the band together, and assuming Hayward opts in for the last year of his deal (there's almost no way he's opting out when he'll be in the championship case and making $34 million for one year), the Celtics are set up for at least a three-year run at this thing. And that appears to be the minimum.
At this point, assuming the Celtics are willing to exercise their Bird rights and eat the tax penalties for paying all these guys, why would any of them want to leave? Marcus Smart just committed for four years. Kyrie, soon, will do the same for five. Tatum is a virtual lock to sign back on when Boston throws the bank at him in a few years. Hayward will be past his max-salary days by the time his deal is through, as will Horford when his four-year deal is up in 2021. They'll have a very difficult time finding a better situation than Boston, where on top of all the talent on the floor they'll be playing for a guy in Brad Stevens who was just voted by the GMs across the league as the best coach in the NBA.
When you start to break it down, would anyone really be surprised if this core is together for the next half decade? In the NBA, that is a lifetime, and it's right in front of the Celtics. Kyrie knows this. Good for him for not letting this thing drag on for no reason, for not forcing his teammates to field questions about next year when they're trying to focus on this year. Despite all the rumors that seem to start themselves in a lot of cases, Kyrie has never given any indication that he wants to be anywhere other than Boston. We've been hearing for weeks now that Jimmy Butler and Kyrie secretly want to find a way onto the same team, but Kyrie never said that. Butler is the one publicly demanding a trade. Kyrie went another way on Thursday. And it feels like the start of a monster run in Boston.